Book review: A Wind in the Door

This sequel to A Wrinkle in Time again uses science as a backdrop for the adventures of Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace. Like before, the universe is in peril and the earth is a shadowed planet. This time the villains are Echthroi, who are behind all things involving war and hate. They are responsible for the rips appearing in the universe and the illness that Charles Wallace is suffering from.

The interdependence between what is great and small—the universe and Charles Wallace’s mitochondria and farandolae—is one of the themes in A Wind in the Door. We are all together in this thing called life. We all need each other and are all affected by each other. The immature farandolae are reminded of this as they are exhorted to Deepen, or take root, to do what they were born to do.

Following the role one plays in this web of interdependence is another theme of the book. The farandolae that sing the song of life in Charles Wallace’s mitochondria are under attack from the offspring they had. Rather than sinking their roots deep to join their elders in continuing this song, Charles Wallace’s life, and creation in general, the immature farandolae have been tricked by the Echthroi to think only of themselves, of their own fun and desires. They have been told to ignore their roles and duties.

I couldn’t help by wonder how much Madeleine L’Engle was affected by the times in which she was writing. A Wind in the Door was published in 1973. The US was still feeling the effect the 1960s. Like the faradolae, the ’60s generation was focused on their own pleasure and self-fulfillment rather than contributing to society as a whole.

As in A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door stresses looking beyond appearances. Meg is forced to see Mr. Jenkins, her nemesis, in a new light. He is not the dour middle-aged principal that she crosses words with but a kind, warm person who sought to help an under-privileged child with basic necessities.

Also like in A Wrinkle in Time, love is the answer and the antidote to hate. It is love that makes a person know who they are. To be known, to be named, to be loved makes you real and unable to hate. Instead, you spew love, love for yourself and love for others.

One thing perplexed me for a while. Naming others or solidifying their being is juxtaposed to unnaming others or extinguishing their being. The children’s otherworldly companion, the cherubim Progos, explains that when faced with the necessity of X-ing oneself or being X-ed by others, he would choose X-ing himself.

Assuming X-ing oneself is a euphemism for suicide, I was perplexed until I realized that X-ing oneself was valued only when it was done for the common good such as for saving others. (Again, I wondered if the times were influencing Madeleine L’Engle and what her stance was on the Vietnam war.)

In the end, Progos, the companion and protector of Meg who would hold her tight under his wings, did just that. He X-ed himself to save them and left me crying for him. (At least in A Wrinkle in Time Aunt Beastie didn’t die.) The implication is that X-ing oneself doesn’t necessarily mean the complete end of oneself. And I prefer thinking of Progos as still existing somewhere in the universe.

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